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Notebook: Backstage at the ESPY's  

The 2003 ESPY Awards went off without a hitch Wednesday night at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Wimbledon champion Serena Williams made off with her first two ESPY's for Best Female Athlete and Best Female Tennis Player.
Gary Payton
Gary Payton unveils a Lakers jersey on stage.

But the real fun was going on backstage where the athletes and celebrities made the rounds with the press and photographers.

Here's a taste of what you didn't see at home.

No, we're not talking about the popular hamburger joint.

The $64,000 Question of the Night: Would Kobe Bryant show up? Not even the ESPN honchos knew. But then came the call late afternoon that Kobe would indeed be in attendance -- sort of. He arrived quietly with his wife after the show started and briskly entered the theatre and went straight to his seat. He left before the show ended and did not talk to reporters or visit the backstage press rooms.

Fits like a Glove
One of the boldest fashion statements of the night was made by Gary Payton, who took the stage wearing a new gold Lakers jersey under his white suit ensemble. The jersey also might have been the evening's most expensive outfit, considering that Payton signed with L.A. for the bargain basement price of $4.9 million, leaving several millions of potential dollars on the table in free agency.

"They made it up for me. They thought it would be a good skit to come out here and show everybody, especially here in L.A. and especially since I signed today," Payton said of the newly minted No. 20 jersey. "It was one of those things that I hadn't really thought of, but I thought it would be nice to represent the L.A. area like this. I got a big warm welcome with it."

For Payton, it's the third NBA jersey he has worn in the past four months -- after wearing only the uniform of the Seattle SuperSonics for the first 13-plus seasons of his NBA career and then spending the final months of the 2002-03 season with Milwaukee.

"It's fine -- as long as it will only be three," Payton said of the change. "I wore one (jersey) for two months, and one for 13 years, but this one, I think, is going to be the end. To come here and be in this Lakers jersey is going to be a great feeling."

Welcome to L.A.
Payton got his first real taste of L.A. when he hit the photo room after the show. The throng of photographers were shouting directions and Payton was happy to oblige. At least until his wife was tired of waiting and went on stage to physically pull him away. But the two stopped before leaving the room to pose for a few pictures together.

Hail to the (Actor Portraying the) Chief
Dennis Haysbert, the actor who plays the Chief Commander on the hit show 24, got the biggest laugh of the evening from the press room crowd. Upon entering the room, before he could be introduced, he walked onto the stage and said "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States."
George Lopez
Actor George Lopez plays for the camera at the ESPYs.

Haysbert felt right at home during the show as fellow 24 castmembers Keifer Sutherland and Elisha Cuthbert were also presenters.

Workin' the Room
The press room backstage can have its share of awkward moments when reporters have a hard time thinking of questions to ask the athletes and celebrities. Or when athletes pull out their patented cliche answers. But comedian George Lopez made sure that didn't happen when he took the microphone.

When asked who he would like to trade places with, Lopez said "I'd like to be Serena Williams' dress. Seriously, I'd like to be her double-stick tape in my next life."

Dress, Check. Earrings, Check. Shoes . . .
The only athlete to pull down two ESPY's at this years event, Serena Williams, had the backstage area buzzing. She's known for being a tough get so the photographers and reporters were working overtime as soon as she walked in the door. But before she entered the press room, she was overheard saying "I want to take off my shoes. Is that too ghetto?"

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